The Netherlands Gambling Authority (NGA), or Kansspelautoriteit, is a government body that supervises and regulates games of chance in the Netherlands.
In February, the Dutch senate passed the Remote Gambling Act. The act will make it possible to offer and play games of chance online, something which is currently illegal in the Netherlands.
Naturally, this is a major focus for the NGA. René Jansen, Chairman of the Executive Board for the NGA (pictured right), explains the scale.
‘This is a huge task for such a small organization as we are, to be done in a small time-frame with a lot of IT systems involved.’
The new gambling law is expected to take effect on 1 July, 2020. Once this happens, the NGA will begin accepting online license applications, with René estimating the vetting process will require six months, putting the actual launch of Dutch-licensed online gambling operators at January 1, 2021.
‘At the moment, our prime project is preparing for the licensing procedure that will start after the coming into force of the Remote Gambling Bill,’ says René.
René explains that, eventually, they will scrutinise the applications on three factors:
1. Who is the applicant (general information)?
2. Are internal governance and procedures OK (reliability)?
3. Is the company able to provide the obliged digital information (consumer protection)?
The new law contains a number of elements to try to combat gambling addiction. Players have to register and state their limit and will be periodically reminded of the risk of addiction on screen. The gambling firms will also have to appoint an addiction expert and pay gambling taxes of 29%, which is one of the highest in Europe.
René describes the changes as a ‘milestone’.
‘This amendment to the Remote Gambling act empowers the Netherlands Gambling Authority to protect participants in online games of chance. Such protection is impossible in an illegal market. This modernisation of the legislation will better enable us to enforce safe gaming in a fair market – provided, that is, that players choose to play via licensed operators.’
In total, 183 companies told the NGA they are interested in a licence to offer online gambling once it becomes legal in 2021. Two thirds of the licence requests come from outside the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is an attractive market for online gambling operators. This is due primarily to the popularity of betting activity in the country, which saw an increase of 20% in gambling in 2016-2018, compared to the two years prior.
‘The Netherlands has a regulated offline (land based) gambling market,’ explains René
‘It consists of a casino monopoly with 14 casinos (operated by Holland Casino); a state lottery; good causes lotteries; a monopoly on lotto and sports betting; a monopoly on horse race betting; and private operators of 42,000 slot machines in arcades, bars and restaurants.
‘The total turnover of the legal gambling sector is more than €2 billion. Almost €500 million is transferred to charities; the same amount goes to the Treasury.’
René believes one of the biggest challenges regulators will face in the future is the need for more international cooperation.
‘I find it very difficult to understand that the European Commission does not have the proper attention for European cooperation on gambling issues. Especially as gambling is an increasingly European market. It will help the industry and the regulators alike if the Commission takes its responsibility.’
Loot boxes are another current hot topic of focus for the NGA.
‘The NGA has researched the intertwining of social games and online gambling, as well as the possible harmfulness of this. Loot boxes are part of the problem of this mixing of social games and gambling.
‘We’ve communicated that in some cases loot boxes might contravene our national gambling legislation. We are in the process of determining a final position.’
René says it’s an honour to be the Board Chair of such a professional regulatory authority.
‘I have gathered lots of experience in the field of competition or antitrust enforcement and as a healthcare sector regulator. The gaming and gambling markets though are completely new to me; it is a great challenge to become acquainted to these markets and to serve the public goals of KSA [NGA].’
Prior to becoming the Chairman of the Executive Board of the Netherlands Gambling Authority in 2018, René was a member of the Executive Board of the Dutch Healthcare Authority. During these years he was President of the European Healthcare Fraud & Corruption Network.
From 2010 until 2015 René worked as a Board Consultant, in cooperation with Twynstra Gudde Consultants and Managers.
Before that, during 12 years he held several management and Board positions at the (former) Netherlands Competition Authority. He started his professional career as a public servant at the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Social Affairs & Employment.
‘I do several things to unwind,’ says René, ‘Like walking the dog in the seaside areas of my home town The Hague, reading books (fiction and non-fiction), meeting friends, enjoying good dinner and a glass of wine.’